What I ask
When I first started interviewing, I wrote out lengthy question lists to ensure I didn’t miss a single detail of a story–even if the information was tangentially connected to the topic at best. These days, unless the interview needs to answer specific questions, I go into them with an open mind and no set questions, ready to listen and make it feel like a conversation instead of a stressful situation.
However, I keep a few questions from my list method in the back of my mind during all interviews because they tend to elicit good quotes:
What has been your favorite part in _______?
What has been the most challenging moment for you in _______?
Tell me about the funniest moment from _______.
Although these prompts may seem to have no value, they actually help the interview in two ways. Firstly, they really can bring out great quotes to include in stories, or they can lead you to ask more questions. They are great conversation starters. Secondly, they make the interviewee feel more comfortable, which allows them to talk more freely about whatever the subject may be.
Who I ask
Another key component to gathering information for stories is collecting it from the right sources. All sides of an issue must be presented from people who know what they are talking about.
I have interviewed my principal and assistant principals, members of Henderson County’s Central Office and doctors, to name a few sources. I make sure I am talking to experts in the field so there is no misinformation being spread.
I also make sure that I research on credible sources, such as Pew Research Center or Gallup for polls or official press releases.
In this story for issue 2 of last year’s newsmagazine, I covered the possibility of eliminating the North Carolina Final Exams (NCFEs). I interviewed students, teachers and the assistant principal, of course, but I also talked to Dr. Jan King, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction in Henderson County. I reached out to Mark Johnson, State Superintendent, but he never returned my calls or emails.
I wrote the “Local Effects” portion of this center spread about vaccines for issue 2 of 2018-19. It was an interesting piece to write because we posted an opinion piece online about the anti-vaccine movement and got a lot of criticism from the community, so we had to make sure we interviewed as many perspectives as we could related to vaccines. I talked to doctors, activists, nurses, students and even a student who had an autoimmune disorder, meaning he could not get vaccinated. I also made sure to include the “anti-vaxxer” perspective, and interviewed a woman who was opposed to vaccines.
In this story for issue 2 of my sophomore year, I covered the local impact of the flu. I included information from the CDC, as well as an interview with Kim Berry, Henderson County’s School Nurse Supervisor.
In this story for the first issue of my sophomore year, I wrote about Henderson County’s academic performance. I did deep research into the county’s report card and report cards of other counties, released by the N.C. Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI). I also interviewed Dr. King in this story.